Top 10 tips to keep tourism dollars local

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Community Back Pocket aims to encourage travellers to spend their travel and tourism dollars locally. The initiative showcases local hospitality, encourages travellers to think beyond obvious global conglomerates, helps to connect communities and educates travellers on how to keep it local.

Charleville, home to the Save the Bilby campaign

Charleville, home to the Save the Bilby campaign

Have you ever sat in your beautifully designed yet slightly clinical hotel room thinking you could be anywhere in the world? If so, I bet you’ve also done the same whilst sipping on tasteless coffee in a large US branded coffee shop. 

Tourism leakage is the concept whereby the majority of money made through tourism leaks out of the local economy.  Especially common in low-income countries where up to 95% of money spent by travellers leaves the local destination.  Instead of impacting locals, it lines the pockets of global conglomerates.

It’s not only these countries where tourism leakage occurs. Rebecca Thomas from Community Back Pocket is on a mission to keep tourism dollars local.

“I recently found out that over 20% of the wineries in the Hunter Valley are Chinese owned,” she said.  “They may employ locals, but the majority of profits leave Australia.”

Our tourism industry has had a tough year of bushfires, floods and now COVID-19. There is good news though. With the restrictions on overseas travel and Australians taking domestic holidays, Rebecca says that the $64.2 billion we spend on overseas trips can now stay local.  

Here is her top ten tips on how to help you part with your well-earned tourism dollars in support of local operators.  

1.  Choose a locally owned and operated tour company

Ask the question “who owns the company”. This will help to avoid third party organisations where revenue by-passes locals. Sometimes what first appears to be a local company with local guides is actually not.  

 2.  Stay local

Avoid large international branded hotel chains and find locally owned accommodation.  Typically, these options offer a more authentic and personal experience anyway.  Staff are often passionate and want to show off their home and local community.  They tend to share their expertise on what to do and where to visit.  Local insight that may not be in the guidebooks leading to a more unique experience.  

Elysian Retreat, Whitsundays. Image Fiona Harper

Elysian Retreat, Whitsundays. Image Fiona Harper

 3.  Book direct where possible

Booking sites such as offer the benefit of marketing accommodation overseas to a wider audience, but they do take a cut.  If you see accommodation you like the look of, contact them to see if you can book direct on the same deal.  This means all the money will go into the owner’s pocket.  

4.  Eat local

Find locally owned restaurants and cafes instead of international food joints.  These options will provide you with a more traditional insight into the local way of eating as well as often tastier, cheaper and fresher food.

Choose locally-owned cafe’s over franchise restaurants. Image Fiona Harper

Choose locally-owned cafe’s over franchise restaurants. Image Fiona Harper

5.  Drink local

Drink the local tipple rather than imported beverages.  In Australia this means choosing a schooner of Kosciuszko over a Corona or a Wildbrumby Gin over Bombay Sapphire.  Drink at independently owned cafes and bars instead of internationally owned chains.

6.  Buy local

Source local produce and visit markets.  Always ask if the revenue will be going back into the local community. Responsible travel is about purchasing locally made souvenirs.  Hunt out authentic locally crafted keepsakes and avoid mass-produced products often made in China.  

Shop at local markets. Image Fiona Harper

Shop at local markets. Image Fiona Harper

7.  Travel local

Not only do you get a more authentic experience of a place, using local transport positively impacts local communities by creating jobs.  Added benefits include reduction of your carbon footprint. Win win!

 8.  Be inquisitive

Question, question, question!  Spark up conversations with locals.  Aim to learn more about the community you’re visiting. Get to know the people, their cultures, traditions, and cuisines.  I like to wait until I get to my destination before booking anything as locals know best.  I ask them about attractions, places to eat, drink, visit and stay. I ask about the history, the people and the stories behind them.

Mary-Lynne Stratton at MR Open Studios. Image Tim Campbell

Mary-Lynne Stratton at MR Open Studios. Image Tim Campbell

 9.  Spread the love

It’s common that the tourism dollar stays in small defined and popular areas.  Overtourism has been high on the agenda for a few years now.  Visit less frequented areas and spread your money outside the well-trodden obvious locations.  Even if I’m in one area for a few weeks I break it up. I stay in a couple of different accommodation choices and visit several outlets rather than returning to a favourite.  This also provides the opportunity to meet lots of local people and feel like I’ve had a few mini holidays!

10.  Use a sustainable travel measurement tool

Responsible travel does take research and time. I understand that sometimes this isn’t possible.  When travelling overseas it can also take a certain amount of confidence. This is where trusted and recognised international tour operators come into their own.   If you do book with an international brand use a tool such as G Adventure’s Ripple Score. This provides you with the impact of the tourism leakage effect.  The higher the Ripple Score, the more money is staying within local communities.

So, next time you’re on holiday, whether in Australia or overseas remember to spend local. Together we can help minimise the tourism leakage.

About Community Back Pocket

Established by Rebecca Thomas, Community Back Pocket’s goal is to encourage and promote ways to keep the travel and tourism dollars local. The initiative aims to showcase local hospitality, encourage travellers to think beyond obvious global conglomerates, help connect communities and educate travellers on how to experience local.

Rebecca’s vision is for Community Back Pocket to make this process easier by having a dedicated go-to resource focusing on local options.  Working together we can preserve traditional culture and minimise social and ethnic stress.  And by spending local we can have a positive impact on the lives of the host community. 

Author: Rebecca Thomas

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